Ten principles that guide my strategy work

By Marcus Coetzee, 31 August 2017.

My strategy work is guided by a set of philosophies or beliefs that have evolved over the past two decades. These principles permeate all my strategy work while giving it a unique flavour. They help me to get the results I desire. Here are the top 10 that stand out.

  1. I believe that organizations are operating in an unstable world. The future is no longer what it used to be. Although we can identify broad trends, it is no longer possible to predict what threats or opportunities will spontaneously arise and affect your organization. Furthermore, the actions of your organization will have both intended and unintended consequences.
  2. I believe that conventional strategy has failed. It has not delivered on its promises. For many organizations, it has become an empty ritual that does not yield the expected value. Modern strategy is about a cultivating a state of strategic awareness and clarity, and developing a prepared mind. I agree with General Eisenhower who said, “plans are useless but planning is everything”.
  3. I believe in living documents. I prefer to produce short documents that can be worked on collaboratively and easily digested and updated as the best strategy emerges.
  4. I am a minimalist. I believe in identifying and focusing on the essential, then eliminating the rest. This philosophy can guide organizations as much as it helps individuals to think clearly and declutter their lives, habits, thoughts and workspaces.
  5. I believe in focus and positioning. The biggest lie is that we can have it all. To succeed we need to focus our energies and position ourselves clearly in the marketplace. This is especially the case in a crowded marketplace.
  6. I believe in the value of “necessary endings” as defined by Dr Henry Cloud. To unlock opportunity and move forward in life, we may need to make an ending to something we do, a responsibility, or a relationship with a person or organization. We must give up misplaced hope that things will get better. We must make a “necessary ending” to create space for something new and good to emerge.
  7. I believe in “essentialism” as captured by Greg McKeown. As we become successful, our focus tends to broaden as we pick up more responsibilities. Eventually, we may lose sight of our core skill or contribution. We become overwhelmed and need to reassess what we do best. This, coupled with some necessary endings, will enable us to succeed again.
  8. I believe in clarity of purpose. Every person and organization is on this planet for a reason and that reason is not to make money – it is to improve the world in some small but significant way. Money is a consequence of this contribution. This sense of purpose should be clarified as it affects everything we do.
  9. I believe in the lean startup methodology. It is unwise to strive for perfection before one moves forward. It is far better to start doing and experimenting with what you have. Then use feedback to improve your activities in an iterative process.
  10. I strive to be a “thinking partner”. The people I work with frequently have the answers but don’t know they do. The solution may be hidden by mental clutter such as mistaken assumptions or outdated beliefs. Sometimes all I do is listen and provide encouragement, and this is what’s needed.

These are the principles that guide my strategy work. Now it’s your turn. I encourage you to reflect on principles that guide your best work.

In pursuit of strategic clarity

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